Europe’s top football clubs, including Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid, and Sevilla, have collectively voiced their rejection of the proposed new European Super League.
The European Court of Justice (CJEU) ruled that the International Association of Football Federation (FIFA) and the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) rules on prior approval of interclub football competitions, such as the Super League, violate EU law. The decision has allowed further competitions between different leagues.
What is the European Super League?
The European Superleague Company was founded in March 2021 with the participation of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atlético Madrid, Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham, Juventus, Inter Milan, and AC Milan. These 12 clubs initially announced a closed competition, outside of UEFA’s remit and in which the founding clubs were guaranteed the right to participate permanently.
Jan-Christian Dreesen, the CEO of German Bundesliga powerhouse Bayern Munich, said there is no change in the team’s position and added: “Such a competition would be an attack on the importance of the national leagues and the structure of European football.”
Hans-Joachim Watzke, the chairman of Borussia Dortmund, another Bundesliga side, said, “For Borussia Dortmund, regardless of the discussions surrounding the verdict, the following applies: we are not available for a Super League.”
English Premier League football club Manchester United also turned down the idea. “Our position has not changed. We remain fully committed to participation in UEFA competitions and positive cooperation with UEFA, the Premier League, and fellow clubs through the ECA on the continued development of the European game,” said a statement.
Liverpool, another Premier League team, also rejected the new league initiative, saying: “We will continue to work with fellow clubs through the ECA and participate in UEFA competitions.”
Arsenal also declined to join the Super League with a statement saying: “We will continue to play in UEFA competitions and continue to work with fellow European clubs and the European Club Association (ECA).”
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Spanish La Liga side Sevilla said on Instagram, “Earn it on the pitch!” implying their refusal to join the Super League.
How it all Started?
The European Super League was proposed in 2021 as a competition project to be held between 12 clubs – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Inter Milan, Juventus, Milan, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, and Real Madrid.
FIFA and UEFA objected to the project, threatening to impose sanctions on clubs and players who might decide to participate.
Why Did it Not Happen?
The announcement of the Super League was met with immediate and widespread backlash, particularly in England. Thousands of fans protested against a league that seemed to disregard sporting merit, leading to a swift reaction from the clubs involved. The Premier League signatories, influenced by their fans’ uproar, were the first to withdraw from the Super League, just 24 hours after its creation. This ripple effect led to the withdrawal of Atlético Madrid, Inter Milan, and AC Milan, leaving only Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Juventus still committed. UEFA’s threats of sanctions further deterred clubs from participating in this divisive project.
What Does the CJEU Ruling Say and Why is it Important?
The CJEU’s judgment declared that FIFA and UEFA had abused their dominant position by attempting to veto the Super League. This ruling is pivotal as it challenges the monopoly of these entities as the sole organizers of international soccer competitions. While UEFA and FIFA can still authorize new competitions, they must adhere to transparent, objective, proportional, and inclusive criteria, which they lacked in their initial response to the Super League. This decision opens up the possibility for new competitions outside the traditional FIFA and UEFA framework.
Does the Ruling Authorize the Creation of the European Super League?
While the ruling doesn’t explicitly authorize the Super League, it establishes a new global framework for relations with football federations. UEFA’s recent protocol for authorization, published in June 2022, seems to contradict the criteria set by the CJEU. The final decision on the validity of UEFA’s criteria and the fate of the Super League now rests with the Madrid commercial court judge.
Implications for Players and Clubs
Can Players or Clubs be Sanctioned?
Following the CJEU ruling, any FIFA and UEFA rules prohibiting clubs and players from participating in new interclub competitions like the Super League are deemed unlawful. However, with UEFA’s 2022 incorporation of authorization criteria, the possibility of sanctions remains uncertain, despite UEFA President Alexander Ceferin expressing reluctance to impose them.
The Future of the Champions League
Will the Champions League Continue as We Know It?
The Champions League is undergoing its final edition in the current format. To counter the Super League and to increase club revenues, a new format with 36 teams has been introduced. This format changes the group stage dynamics and the path to the knockout rounds, reflecting UEFA’s effort to maintain its appeal to top clubs.
Viability of the Super League
Is the Super League Viable with the New Format?
The viability of the new Super League format hinges on club participation. Most major European clubs, except for Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Juventus, are aligned with UEFA through the ECA. An agreement signed until 2030 promises more income for these clubs under UEFA’s umbrella. The economic appeal of the Super League will be a determining factor in its potential success.
Impact on Football’s Structure
How Could the Ruling Change Soccer’s Order and Structures?
The CJEU ruling could significantly impact FIFA and especially UEFA. If the Super League proceeds, UEFA could face substantial revenue losses, as it heavily relies on income from club competitions. This would leave UEFA with the European Championship as its primary revenue source, impacting the financial support it provides to national federations.
Europe’s top football clubs’ rejection of the Super League, amid legal battles and redefining of football’s governing structures, signals a critical moment in the sport. While the future of the European Super League remains uncertain, it’s clear that the integrity, tradition, and structure of European football are at the forefront of this debate.